Schoolteacher settles sex discrimination case backed by Equality Commission



A schoolteacher who launched a sex discrimination case against her employer with the support of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland has settled the case for £5,000.

Catherine McCormick, who continues to teach at the school, alleged that she was overlooked for the post of temporary head of English because she was working reduced hours, amounting to indirect sex discrimination.

Ms McCormick was on a temporary reduction of hours following her return from maternity leave, working three days per week instead of five in order to accommodate her child care responsibilities.

In settling the case, Assumption Grammar School in Ballynahinch has recognised that it did not give Ms McCormick an opportunity to apply or be considered for the position and has disadvantaged her as a part time/flexible worker.

The Board of Governors has said it regrets the upset felt by Ms McCormick and looks forward to continued good working relationships with her, confirming that there will be no disadvantage to her due to the fact that she was unable to avail of the acting up experience, nor will she be victimised in any way.

The Board of Governors will also liaise with the Equality Commission on appropriate training in recruitment and selection with specific focus on part-time workers.

Anne McKernan, head of legal services at the Equality Commission, said: “This is a good result all round - one of the main reasons we support cases is to effect change. While Catherine missed out on this opportunity, she has been able to secure a change in policy and practice that will benefit other teachers into the future.

“It’s good that this has been resolved productively and amicably. We’re publicising this to remind all employers of the difficulties and dangers of disadvantaging people on flexible or part time working arrangements, even unintentionally.

“In Northern Ireland, 39 per cent of female employees work part-time compared to nine per cent of male employees, and 82 per cent of part-time employees are women. Because of the high concentration of women in part-time jobs, any measure which excludes part-timers from a particular post or promotion is likely to have a more adverse effect on women and that’s why it may amount to indirect sex discrimination.”



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